Wisconsin Historical Museum Online Collections
Portrait painting: John C. Starkweather, by Charles V. Bond, 1858
Object ID: 1942.56
AAT Object Term: portrait , oil painting
Materials/Medium: oil paint , canvas
Detailed Description: Back of canvas reads: "Presented to the/ "Milwaukee Light Guard"/ by the Artist,/ private C.V. Bond./ Milwaukee, Oct. 21st, 1858"
"Starkweather, John Converse (May 11, 1830-Nov. 15, 1890), lawyer, soldier, b. Cooperstown, N.Y. He graduated from Union College, Schenectady, N.Y., and in 1849 moved to Wisconsin, settling in Milwaukee, where he studied law and set up a practice about 1851. In 1855 he helped organize the Milwaukee Light Gaurd, and from 1857 to 1861served as its captain. During the Civil War, Starkweather served as colonel, 1st Wisconsin Volunteers. He campaigned with the Army of the Cumberland in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Georgia (1861-1863). Wounded at the battle of Chickamauga, Starkweather was ordered to duty on general court martial in Washington D.C., serving in this capacity from 1864 until mustered out of the service in May, 1865, was post commander at various points in Tennesee and Alabama. In Nov., 1862, while on leave in Milwaukee, Starkweather was ordered by Governor Edward Salomon to take charge of local troops and guard the city during the drawing numbers for the draft. After leaving the army in 1865, Starkweather resided in Oconomowoc, where for a number of years, he engaged in stock farming and served by appointment from President U.S. Grant as postmaster. About 1876 he moved to Washington D.C., where he conducted a general law and pension claims office until his death." (State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Dictionary of Wisconsin Biography, 1960, p. 336-337.)
"Beautiful and Appropriate Present. On Thursday evening [October 21, 1858] the Milwaukee Light Guard met in Armory Hall, and after going through with various military exercises, were presented by Hon. G.A. Starkweather, in behalf of private Charles V. Bond, a well executed and life-like portrait of Capt. John C. Starkweather.
"Mr. Starkweather, in making his presentation remarks, spoke substantially as follows:
"'Officers and Soldiers of the Milwaukee Light Guard: -- As I was going to my tea this evening, Mr. Charles V. Bond, who was elected a member of your Company in July last, requested me to present, in his behalf, to the officers and members of this Company, that beautiful portrait of your Captain, John C. Starkweather, Esq. Mr. Bond, like most of the young men of this country, has to rely upon his own resources and genius for a livelihood. He has, however, had the good fortune to have spent some time in Paris, and about a year and a half in Florence, and pursued his profession some considerable time at Rome. Since his return to this country he has resided in the cities of New York and Boston, where he has left many warm friends. He has lately become a resident of the city of Milwaukee -- the Queen City of the Lakes -- and he assured me in the short interview I had with him, that he was better pleased with his current residence than any former one. He has become most ardently attached to the Captain and members of the company; and it is in view of this attachment that he presents, through me, to the Officers and Soldiers of the Milwaukee Light Guard, this elegant portrait of your Captain.'
"'The picture is well conceived and skillfully executed, and well worthy the high reputation of the donor. At the request of Mr. Bond, the portrait will remain a short time at his studio, where the same may be examined by those who desire, and then it will be removed and hung up in the Armory of the Light Guard, there to remain as a perpetual souvenir. Truly this is a noble and splendid present to your company. A thousand endearing recollections will be associated with that portrait. Should your Captain be absent from the drill, that picture drawn to the life by the skillful artist, will seem to breathe out a satisfactory excuse. And should the donor happen to be absent, you need only cast your eyes upon the picture, and it would almost seem to say to the roll call -- 'Here.' Nay, more, this beautiful portrait will have a tendency to knit you more firmly together in the bond of love, and friendship, and make you one common brotherhood.'
"'And finally, this portrait will remain not only with you, but your successors, it is to be hoped, for all time. And when the living portrait, of which this is a faithful and beautiful copy, shall have passed the narrow isthmus of time, and entered upon the vast future, this portrait will still remain to those who may survive, to remind them of the many happy hours spent in their society, and of the virtues and the many noble and social qualities of your departed Captain.'
"'My relations with that gentleman are such that I forbear to speak of him personally. His conduct must stand for my speech in that respect. I may, however, express a hope that he will never dishonor the position he occupies, nor do any act to tarnish the living picture of which this is such a beautiful copy. In conclusion, I present to you, in behalf of Chas. V. Bond, the Artist, and your fellow soldier, that portrait, as a present to the Officers and Soldiers of the Milwaukee Light Guard, together with his note accompanying the same, which I desire may be read.'
"The letter was then read, as follows:
"'To the Officers and Members of the Milwaukee Light Guard: -- Gentlemen: As a token of my esteem for you, as men and soldiers, I present you with a portrait of our noble Captain, J.C. Starkweather.'
"'The portrait will remain on exhibition at my studio, for a few days previous to its removal to the Armory. You are kindly solicited to call and examine it. I am sincerely your friend and brother soldier, C.V. Bond.'
"Private Rufus King thus responded for the Company, to the remarks of Mr. Starkweather and the gift of Mr. Bond:
"'Brother soldier: -- In behalf of the Officers and members of the Milwaukee Light Guard, I return to you the hearty acknowledgments for the handsome and life-like Portrait of our honored Captain, which you have just presented to us. It is not only remarkable for its fidelity as a likeness, but for its excellence as a painting. To us, therefore, it has a double value -- as a work of art executed by one of our own corps, and as the 'counterfeit presentment' of a man whom every member of the Milwaukee Light Guard honors, respects and loves.'
"'You know, sir, as I and all of us know, how much our Company is indebted to its gallant Captain; how, from small beginnings, it has, under his auspices, attained to its present full stature; how, under his instructions and by his liberal help, it has gained in discipline, increased in numbers, improved in dress, and risen in reputation, till it now stands peerless among the citizen soldiery of the Northwest. We should be ungrateful, indeed, if we failed to appreciate such services, or forgot to thank you for the admirable portrait of the man to whom we stand under so many and great obligations. Once more, sir, therefore, in behalf of my comrades of the Light Guard, I thank you most heartily for this acceptable gift. When it shall be transferred from your studio into our hands, we will hang this fair copy upon our Armory walls, while we enshrine the honored original in our hearts.'
"After the speeches, the company marched up to the residence of Capt. Starkweather, where they were graciously entertained, after which they returned to the Armory, and thirty-two guns were fired as a finale to the ceremony." (Milwaukee Sentinel, October 23, 1858.)
John C. Starkweather's widow and daughter (Mrs. H.V. Wurdemann) donated the painting and other personal mementos of his to the State Historical Society of Wisconsin in 1911.
Inscribed in ink on the back of the canvas is: "Presented to the/ "Milwaukee Light Guard"/ by the Artist,/ private C.V. Bond./ Milwaukee, Oct. 21st, 1858".
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